Sundlaugin á Hofsós
On the northeastern edge of Berserkjahraun is the farmstead at Bjarnarhöfn – a must for every traveller with a taste for adventure (literally). Smell that? Yup, it’s rotting shark flesh – the farm is the region’s leading producer of hákarl (putrid shark meat), a traditional Icelandic dish.
When the peanut gallery starts moaning ‘are we there yet?’ you know it’s time to pull off the road. Erpsstaðir is the perfect place to stretch your legs – especially if you’ve got the brats in tow. Like a mirage for sweet-toothed wanderers, this dairy farm, on Rte 60 between Búðardalur and the Ring Road, specialises in delicious homemade ice cream.
Iceland’s premier ski slopes are at 84-sq-km Bláfjöll , which has 14 lifts and downhill, cross-country and snowboarding facilities – and gets swamped by eager city dwellers when the snow begins to fall. Passes cost Ikr2000/550 per adult/child six to 16 years, and you can hire skis, poles, boots and other gear at reasonable rates.
Iceland’s Environment Agency recruits more than 200 volunteers each summer for work on practical conservation projects around the country, mainly creating or maintaining trails in Vatnajökull National Park.
Pólar Hestar , one of the best-known stables in northern Iceland, offers a great introduction to riding for the uninitiated, as well as acclaimed six- to eight-day horse-riding tours (five or six days in the saddle). The farm has over 100 horses and the owners’ little boy has memorised all of their names. Complimentary pastries are served during breaks.
Ferðafélag Akureyrar organises hut-to-hut hiking tours (Ikr49,000 per person) geared towards Icelanders. The route starts from the Þórsteinsskáli hut at Herðubreiðarlindir and follows the Öskjuleið route to Svartárkot in upper Bárðardalur. The route runs via the huts at Bræðrafell, Dreki, Dyngjufell and Botni.
The dinky Blue-Flag Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach , on the edge of the Atlantic, is packed with happy bathers in summer, thanks to golden sand imported all the way from Morocco and an artificial hot spring that keeps the water at a pleasant 18°C to 20°C. There are sociable hot pots on shore and in the sea, a snack bar, changing rooms (Ikr200), and canoes and rowing boats .
Horse riding can be arranged through the farm Skálakot , 15km west of Skógar. Short rides cost Ikr2600 per hour; you can wander up by the glacier here on four-hour trips (Ikr6000) or plan an all-inclusive riding holiday (around Ikr18,000 per day). Skálakot also has rather strange sleeping-bag accommodation, in a dorm that looks straight into the stables!
For a full-day experience with a difference, ride a Viking horse in the morning then spend the afternoon touring Gulfoss, Geysir and other Icelandic natural phenomena. It's a nature-lover's dream, and the best way to make the most of your visit to Reykjavik. The Icelandic horse breed has remained virtually unchanged since the Vikings brought them to Iceland in the 9th century.